Vanderbilt Report Card: Western Kentucky

Vanderbilt fell to Western Kentucky 14-12 on Thursday at Vanderbilt Stadium. VandyMania.com's Don Yates grades the Commodores' performance in several key team areas.

PASSING OFFENSE: C-
Johnny McCrary completed 18-of-34 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown. However, a major deficiency in his performance was two picks thrown in the end zone. Both times Vanderbilt was inside the 10-yard line threatening to score. McCrary did some good things during the game but those two picks were devastating to Vanderbilt. McCrary said in the post game press conference that he thought he should have a 'C-' grade for his performance. Sorry, but throwing two picks into the end zone does not get you that. I say a D- or worse would be more appropriate for a quarterback that did something like that. Vanderbilt has found a star. Trent Sherfield caught four passes for 63 yards with a long of 31 yards. He made two key catches late in the game that helped Vanderbilt to nearly pull out tying the game and forcing overtime. Other notable wide receivers include Kris Kentera who had two catches for 48 yards, DeAndre Woods had a pair of catches for 20 yards. Running back Ralph Webb did well with 3 receptions for 27 yards. Sophomore Caleb Scott made a nice 23-yard catch. Vandy's blockers did a good job of protecting McCrary. The 'Dores gave up only one sack during the game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C
Vanderbilt gained 176 yards on 42 rushes for a 4.2 yard per carry average. Ralph Webb, as expected, led the Commodores in rushing with 18 carries for 70 yards (3.9 ypc). Webb had 11 carries at the half but only carries seven times in the second half. Johnny McCrary did well in this area gaining 66 yards on eight carries (8.2 ypc). McCrary did fumble but luckily the ball was recovered by one of his teammates. Dallas Rivers gained 26 yards on 11 carries. Vandy tried running up the middle several times late in the game with little success. Not sure why they didn't try more runs outside but maybe the fact that WKU was loading the box had something to do with that.

PASSING DEFENSE: B
Vandy's defense held a team that averaged 44 points and over 500 yards a game to just 14 points and 247 yards. Vanderbilt limited Hilltopper quarterback Brandon Doughty to just 209 yards passing on 19-30 completions with one TD. Last year this kid threw for 49 touchdowns. VU safety Oren Burks had a solid night, coming up with a pair of pass breakups. Vandy was able to put some pressure on Doughty. Jonathan Wynn's fourth quarter sack helped stop of WKU drive. Tre Herndon's first quarter sack put WKU in a third and long situation.

RUSHING DEFENSE: A
Vanderbilt's defense limited the Hilltoppers to just 38 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Leon Allen, WKU's star returning running back, had just 56 yards on 15 carries for a 3.7 yards per carry average. Torren McGaster, Darreon Herring and Andrew Williamson each had six tackles to lead the Commodore defense. Unfortunately, Vandy's defense did not create any turnovers.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Kicker/Punter Tommy Openshaw was solid for the most part He had an early 62-yard punt that turned the field around and pinned WKU back at its 2. He later boomed a punt for 64 yards. He did shank one for 19 yards and that resulted in better field position (WKU 31) for WKU helped lead to the Hilltoppers first score of the game. Openshaw missed his first field goal attempt (28 yards) of the 2015 season thanks to a poor snap and hold but he would go on to make attempts from 48 and 26 yards. Vanderbilt's punt returners seemed haphazard at times with the returners failing properly secure the ball or call for fair catches. On one punt in the first quarter Tre Herndon failed to get away from a ball that wasn't being fielded, the ball hit the ground, bounced and hit him. WKU recovered the ball at the Vandy 18. Thankfully the VU defense held. Vandy never got much going in the return game. Trey Ellis did have a 10-yard punt return. Vandy's kick coverage teams were solid for the most part.

COACHING: C
A Western Kentucky player, the son of the defensive coordinator (Nick Holt) reportedly said that they studied Andy Ludwig's history of 2-point conversion plays. They found that he did the same thing in every 2-point conversion situation and were apparently prepared for that play. If this is true, it is very concerning. The Commodores finished with five penalties for 48 yards. Penalties were problems early when the first two drives were stalled by them but the team seemed to get this under control as the game progressed. Vandy faced a fourth-and-inches at the WKU 26 in the third quarter. While many Vandy enthusiests believed Mason should have went for it, I'm not sure though. Maybe they should have at least tried to draw the Hilltoppers offside.

OVERALL GRADE: C
Overall the team did some good things but not enough to win the game. Definitely an improvement over last year's opener but no cigar. The defense played tough for almost three quarters before running out of gas. They also didn't create turnovers. The offense looked good at times but stumbled and bumbled for the entire game until the last drive and just missed getting the game into overtime where anything could happen. The return teams didn't do much. It's a shame that the team couldn't pull out a win but now they must put this loss behind them and focus on stopping Nick Chubb and the Georgia Bulldogs. The Vandy offense appeared to grow up a little on that last drive when they played with more sense of urgency and intensity. Let's hope in the future they eliminate mistakes and punch the ball into the end zone more.

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